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Andy Goss




Hold the hate mail, please.

I'm seriously going to write this column. Yes, the Unibrowed Booker is one of Scott "Who's In Charge Here" Keith's least favorite people. I could notch this up to any one of a number of reasons, but the one I choose is Hart Sympathy. You see, Russo was the person who started Sports Entertainment, which Bret couldn't accept. Bret then started to believe his own hype as far as being a Canadian national hero, and everything went downhill from there. Furthermore, deep down I believe Scott think Russo responsible for Owen's death. Folks, it's been 14 months. He's gone. Deal.

That little flame out of the way, let's take the rest of this column to examine why Vince Russo is a Good Thing. Sure, he's given us many Bad Ideas, but there's a main difference. Kevin Nash, Kevin Sullivan, Pat Patterson, etc., would keep pushing those bad ideas down our throats until we gagged on their forearms. With Russo, when an idea sucks, it's usually gone and fast.

Beaver who?

Remember, the Mae Young/Moolah fiascos were mainly AFTER he left.

Including the hand.

But this is about what he's done right, so here we go with Ten Things We Should All Thank Russo For:

1. Chris Benoit as main eventer. Remember the early days of the Powers That Be? One of the things that it involved was Chris Benoit appearing in his first solo main event, against Bret Hart at Mayhem. Mayhem being the transitional PPV that it was, it may not have seemed like much at the time. Soon after, Benoit was booked against no less than Scott Hall, and though he wound up facing Jeff Jarrett, the star was on the rise. A Triple Threat Theater was in the works, Benoit vs. Jarrett in three matches. That would have elevated both to main event status. Even though it fell through, both men are there on their own. And speaking of Jarrett...

2. Jeff Jarrett being interesting. Thanks to someone somewhere in the WWF, Jarrett's stint from about December 1997 to May 1999 was kind of nondescript. It was when he won the Intercontinental Title that things got interesting. Sure, many thought he was a surrogate champion, but it got him some spotlight. From there, he had some great opening matches with Edge and D'Lo Brown, emerging as EuroContinental champion. Then came the Andy Kaufman storyline with Chyna, and he was getting the sought-after "Ahole" chant, which followed him in WCW. Now, he's main eventing his 5th straight PPV.=20 That's staying power.

3. The Six-Pack Challenge, Unforgiven '99. Remember this? Perhaps one of the better ways to put a ton of people in the main event in a LONG time was by having a six-way singles match with one fall stips. Add a vacant World Title and Austin outside, and suddenly even the Bulldog looks like a viable contender. And as for the match itself, it was a good to great affair, with many wild near falls and a "heavyweight trainwreck" in the middle, when everyone hit their finishers and broke up falls. That was good booking.

4. The Deadly Game Tournament. Never before had a single storyline influenced so many matches. The story of a manipulative president trying everything in his power to hold down one man played throughout pretty much every match. I'll admit, when I first read the report, I thought, "Huh??", but then I looked on again. While there were a few things which seemed somewhat unusual, the payoff still remains as one of the best, revitalizing Austin vs. McMahon and making the Rock a superstar. Speaking of which...

5. Rocky Maivia: from Blue Chipper to People's Champ.=20 Okay, Rocky Maivia was pushed to the moon when he arrived in the WWF.=20 To say he wasn't ready for it would be to say that the Gobbledygooker was a bad idea. And to say the fans didn't like it would be to say that World War II turned out poorly for Japan. He was given time in the background as part of the Nation, but he still drew such intense heat that soon, he took it over and booted out Faarooq. Russo then helped him on his interviews, and just like that, the most electrifying man in sports entertainment was born. Okay, maybe not "just like that", but still.

6. Hardcore matches. Go ahead, you can claim that Paul E invented these. But if you were to look back on the early ECW tapes, a lot of those brawls are mindless. It's just a lot of psychotic punching and kicking with everyone bleeding. When Vince Russo started the "Mankind likes Vince" storyline, one of the offshoots was the Hardcore Title, intended as a joke at the time. However, you the fans liked it, and pretty soon matches were being set up around it. One of the best of all time was also one of the earliest, a great Road Dogg-Al Snow brawl that went into the snowbanks of Worcester and ended with a memorable piledriver through a crate. Speaking of Road Dogg...

7. The New Age Outlaws. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, there once was a time that even though they were the TAG team CHAMPIONS of the WORRRRRRRRRRRRLD, the Road Dogg Jesse Jammes and the Badd Ass Billy Gunn weren't the New, Age, Outlaws! In fact, they were just two guys. And no one really cared about them. So Russo gave them the gimmick of trying to do anything to anyone to get attention drawn to themselves. While that didn't work completely, the seeds were sown for their eventual incorporation into Degeneration X, the next logical step. Suddenly, Jammes discovered he sounded pretty cool on the mic, was given time, and the rest is history.

8. Shane McMahon, rookie of the year. When I heard that Shane would be at WrestleMania as a wrestler, I was upset. Then when I heard that he'd face Test at SummerSlam, my hopes weren't much higher.=20 However, it must be said now that Shane is not a bad wrestler. Under whose watch did these things happen? Vinnie Roo's. Test/Shane even got Match of the Year considerations, despite/because of the Russo Run-Ins and Sports Entertainment of it all. Just something to think about when you say Russo's booking completely sucks.

9. Pay-Per-Views with a Purpose. Before the Russo Era of Crashy TV, matches would be put on WWF or WCW pay-per-views, and angles to those matches oftentimes weren't there or were added after the match was. During Crash TV, storylines and feuds became more important.=20 Suddenly, EVERY match on the WWF pay-per-views was there for a reason, and not just to put one person over another. Backstories may have existed before he came along, but he expanded upon the idea.

10. The Hogan work/shoot, Booker T as champion. Hulk Hogan, a man whose time in the spotlight had long passed, was insisting on being champion again. Russo felt he should not have been. So, in effect, he pulled a Montreal... only for real. Due to creative control clauses and such, he couldn't do it as it was done, but the effect was the same: people started talking about WCW, and interest has returned.

There. I wrote that in about half an hour. Ten items, each expounded into a paragraph, in half an hour, on a man that some people have trouble saying two nice things about in one day. The self-righteousness level of the Internet "smarts" may have just gone down a notch, but hey, we can't all be sheep, can we?

Later in the week, I'll produce What If #3. Meanwhile, I want all of you to consider what things would have been like if Russo were never turfed mid-stream in January. Until next time, from 15 feet high, this is Andy P. Goss, signing off.

Andy Goss

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